Ohio State offensive tackle prospect Paris Johnson Jr. could be an ideal fit for Bears with No. 9 pick


(670 The Score) As the Bears assess their depth chart for 2023 and beyond, there remains a void at right tackle.

The Bears were active in exploring tackles in free agency but backed off as the prices rose, multiple sources said. Mike McGlinchey was a strong possibility before he landed a five-year, $87.5-million deal with the Broncos. Jawaan Taylor was also a target, but the Bears weren't willing to match the $20 million annually that he landed in a four-year, $80-million contract with the Chiefs. Four-time Pro Bowl selection Orlando Brown Jr., who signed with the Bengals, wasn’t a “scheme match” for the Bears in the mind of general manager Ryan Poles.

As the market at tackle became inflated in Poles' mind, the Bears didn't add a proven veteran starter in free agency.

“It comes down to value and where we felt comfortable with our research, our evaluations, analytics, all of that,” Poles said of the tackle market. “You know, there was a certain point where we were comfortable with based on the value and the evaluation that we had. And if it surpassed that, we were OK with moving on.”

The Bears bolstered the interior of their offensive line by signing veteran guard Nate Davis to a three-year, $30-million deal. Poles then restated his belief in left tackle Braxton Jones, a fifth-round pick in 2022 who played every snap on offense last season. But there’s still that opening at right tackle.

It seems more likely now that Chicago could covet Ohio State tackle prospect Paris Johnson Jr. with the No. 9 pick, a slot that the Bears acquired as part of their blockbuster trade of the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers.

An All-Big Ten selection and three-year starter with the Buckeyes, Johnson could be one of the seven “blue-chip” prospects, as Poles has described the situation, at the top of the Bears’ draft board.

In Chicago, Johnson could reunite with former Ohio State teammate Justin Fields and give the Bears better protection for their third-year quarterback, who was sacked 55 times in 2022, which tied for the most of any quarterback in the league.

“That would be awesome,” Johnson said of joining Fields with the Bears. “I mean, when I first came to Ohio State, he took me in. It’s always cool when you’re a young lineman, the starting quarterback is a humble guy.

“That’s my guy. He's an amazing quarterback. He’s smart, he’s accurate. I mean, it would be an honor to be back with him again.”

The Bears had a visit with Johnson at the NFL Combine earlier in March, and the meeting was a memorable experience in his mind.

The Bears' suite was unique because it featured darts and a putting green, and team personnel challenged each prospect to compete in one of the games as Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus sought to create a more relaxed interview process.

During his visit, Johnson elected to play darts with the Bears brass.

“These can be some stressful times,” Johnson said. “For them to be like, ‘You know what? Before we get started, let’s play this game.’ It gets your mind going and relaxes you, opens up to talking.

“It’s something, that Bears interview, I’m always going to remember.”

As the Bears hosted prospects for meetings at the NFL Combine, Poles was also beginning to find clarity as he looked to trade the No. 1 pick. The Panthers, who then sat at No. 9, emerged as a strong suitor.

Poles and the Bears’ talent evaluators have long considered and scouted their options past the top overall pick. At No. 9, they could have a decision to make on embattled Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter, a top-tier talent who was recently booked on misdemeanor charges in connection with a high-speed fatal crash. Texas Tech standout edge rusher Tyree Wilson could also be an enticing possibility, and Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski might have the highest floor of any player in this draft class, though most scouts project him as a guard rather than a tackle.

There will be plenty of options for the Bears to consider, including another trade down, but as they look to match value with need, Johnson seems like he would be an ideal fit in Chicago.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

Listen live to 670 The Score via:
Audacy App  |  Online Stream  |  Smart Speaker

Featured Image Photo Credit: David Banks/USA Today Sports